Archive for March, 2010

Progress report

I finally received the long-awaited critique and I am very, very happy. Found lots of issues for me to work on and offered many creative ideas to improve the overall story. There were a number of points I disagreed on, and that’s to be expected.

I’m a little over half way through making the changes and I am pleased. So much so that I consider this version a preliminary final draft. That’s big progress.

Thanks Lauri!

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There are many ways people try to explain what writing a story is like. Just this morning I was on my way home when I started thinking about “dead wood” – I’d earlier told a friend that I was trying to get rid of dead wood. Yet writing isn’t really about getting rid of dead wood because that implies a tree and a story isn’t really like a tree. A tree has many branches that usually don’t come back together – they just spread out more and more.

But the dead wood analogy inspired a different notion. Writing is like trying to start fire without matches, a lighter, gasoline, etc. There are certain ingredients you need to make fire, and there are certain basic tools required. You can try rubbing two sticks together but, chances are, you won’t accomplish much beyond blisters. Come on, if it were really that easy kids would never need to be playing with matches.

The best tools in the world won’t matter if the tinder isn’t right. If it’s damp (boring) it will take a long time to catch, smoke a lot (which stings the eyes), need a lot of attention to keep it lit, and if you are lucky enough to get some kind of a flame, it will be small and relatively cool. Might do to keep mosquitoes away but little else.

So you pick out the damp stuff and the bits that don’t even burn, and you rub the sticks. Finally an ember falls in just the right place, and you carefully groom it into a flame. You build your fire on top of it – no, no you twit – you start off with small, dry twigs, not logs. You don’twant to smother it! That’s it, you build it into a raging inferno, and you’re good to go.

If you’ve done it right, you have a fire that provides warmth against the cold and a means to cook. And even if you’ve no food and it’s August in Phoenix, a nice fire still fills you with a certain mmm.

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I’ve begun editing the opening chapter to get rid of dead wood – detail that doesn’t move the story and doesn’t really add to it either. The goal is to make it leaner and meaner with every word carrying its own weight and more.

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Writing in general

Being in a holding pattern is a lonely, scary place to be. You reach out to people for a simple opinion, hoping for a little encouragement, a little truth, and in the end the experience is akin to The Emperor’sNew Clothes.

Norman Ollestad told me to never give up. Sage advice. But does it really have to be this difficult? I write something and I’m supposed to send it out unedited (edited to the best of my ability is the same as unedited – unless, of course, I’m really that good)? I don’t know for sure, and I’m soon going to find out, but it seems like a waste to point and shoot blindly, without really aiming. And that’s why I had asked several people to read my manuscript prior to me sending it out, so I don’t end up wasting too much time and getting discouraged along the way.

I can understand people who say, “I don’t really have the time”, but only one person actually said that. The other fifteen or so said they’d be more than happy to read it and get back to me soon. And when I didn’t hear from any of them and I asked them, suddenly it was “I haven’t actually read any of it.” I can only ask them so many times. Which leads me to wonder – is my book that bad? I have no way of knowing, and that sucks.

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